FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam and sheep

Posted in Bulgaria, Haskovo, Most by folkestonejack on May 18, 2016

On all our photo charters so far we have headed south from Most, but today we travelled in the opposite direction with a passenger service hauled by 03.12.

03.12 hauls our early morning charter

03.12 hauls our early morning charter

To make our charter possible we were pathed between the regional trains that ply this route in the early morning and we would have to clear the line for the northbound service to Stara Zagora (which offers the only connection that allows you to get to the capital on the same day).

We set off from Most at 7.13am and worked our way steadily up the line. At first the lineside seemed too densely vegetated for any photographic efforts but I was heartened by a runpast at the edge of a wheat field beyond Maslinovo (7.59am). It was a lovely spot with some pretty purple flowers in the foreground and worked reasonably well, despite our best efforts to ruin the shot by trampling them down in our walk to the position!

The next runpast (8.30am), amongst the atmospheric railway buildings at Knizhovnik, was even better. To add to our improving fortunes the sun was finally burning through the thin layer of cloud above us, illuminating the scene before us.

03.12 runs through Knizhovnik

03.12 runs through Knizhovnik

After passing through the station at Malevo (8.40am) we stopped at a field to the bafflement of a shepherd and his flock of sheep. Moments like this can be photographic gold, if everything falls into place perfectly, but often the sheep don’t stick to the script! On many occasions I have seen photographers forlornly chasing sheep across fields, trying to keep them in the foreground as a train passes, but this time we took advantage of the movement of the flock in front of the locomotive to get some memorable static shots.

Once the crew had finished assisting the shepherd in his efforts to persuade the sheep to cross to the other side of the line we enjoyed a lovely runpast (8.45am) with the train rounding the curve. The last clouds disappeared to give us clear blue skies and bountiful sun. If I can be allowed a little photographer’s grumble, I have to confess that this was a little frustrating knowing that we had a long break ahead of us in the middle of the day!

Steam and sheep

Steam and sheep

The last runpast of the morning took place at a sweeping curve through a patchwork of fields (9.08am). We had clambered out in the nearest field but soon discovered that the grass was so tall that it obscured the track from all but the tightest of positions. A short walk up to a hillside vantage point gave us a much better prospect and a great opportunity to admire 03.12 for a longer stretch.

Before the rural landscape gave way to urban sprawl a tractor driver ploughing a field next to the line honked up our train. There can’t be many steam specials here and most must be concentrated on the more scenic stretches around Kardzhali, rather than this stretch.

03.12 passes through the rural lanscape between Malevo and Haskovo

03.12 passes through the rural landscape between Malevo and Haskovo

We finally reached Haskovo at 9.30am. The crew gathered in front of the locomotive for a small presentation and thoroughly deserved the round of applause that followed. It was time to say goodbye to the crew, to 03.12 and to our passenger carriages.

The carriages, from the Corona Express set, are as remarkable as the locomotive. The carriages were originally manufactured for the use of Tsar Boris III, Tsaritsa Ioanna and Prince Kiril in 1938. Although this luxury might seem inappropriate for a group of railway photographers it is well known that Tsar Boris III was something of a rail enthusiast himself and he was often to be found travelling on the footplate and even drove steam locomotives on occasion. I hope he would have approved of the future use of his royal train!

After our farewells the crew set off for Dimitrovgrad where 03.12 will overnight before continuing on to Sofia tomorrow.

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